When you think the Houston Rockets have turned a corner, something like Saturday’s debacle happens.
Yes, I’d describe it that way.
How can the Rockets play so well against the San Antonio Spurs Christmas night only to start pumping the brakes against the lowly New Orleans Pelicans the following night?
I can answer that question for you quite easily.
They don’t give a damn enough.
I won’t say they don’t give a damn at all because I’d be fooling myself if they didn’t.
There are characters on this team who are all about individual accolades rather than figuring what accolades could be used to help the team the most.
The stage was set — we had a national audience against the Spurs and there would be no way in hell the Rockets would like bad when the world was watching each and every move live.
The Rockets I saw Friday night was the team that I expected to see beginning with Game 1 of the season.
But instead, I’ve seen just a bunch of underachieving, mediocre, unconcerned guys that could care less about winning and are more concerned about getting paid.
I’m not, of course, talking about every team member.
But let’s talk about a guy who is certainly the epitome of someone who is humble and has worked his way from the bottom to get himself an NBA spot.
Just who am I talking about?
None other than Marcus Thornton.
Before he made inroads deep in his native roots of Baton Rouge at LSU, he had to hike up to East Texas’ Kilgore College where he was a stat machine, took home All-American honors and has became the basketball program’s most-notable alumnus.
His path to the NBA was not easy, it was one less-taken and one that I admire.
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But according to the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen, Thornton has become increasingly frustrated with the inconsistency of the minutes he has been playing.
He did not appear at all against the Spurs Friday but did log nine points off 3-for-5 shooting against the Pels in 11 minutes.
His minutes were mostly in the 4th quarter and his buckets were key in keeping the Rockets in the game.
He is one of the best Rockets’ sharpshooters — the reason why the team acquired him in the off season — but hasn’t been utilized as much as he’d like.
Here’s what a “frustrated” Thornton told Feigen:
“It’s very difficult,” Thornton said. “I have to keep myself in the game, see what’s going on from afar from the bench. When I get in, keep doing what I’ve been doing my whole life, put the ball in the basket. I have no reason at all. That’s the frustrating part. You don’t know. You have to go with whatever is going on and be ready.”
He also feels that he could’ve contributed to help avert the eventual loss the Rockets had:
“I could have been in there earlier to help my team earlier than the fourth quarter,” Thornton said.
There is certainly some logic to Thornton’s accusations and this is the first time I’ve seen this season that he has gone on the record with his concerns.
When Thornton comes into the game, it usually involved him getting going early, catching heat quickly with his shot that shares a striking resemblance to long-time Detroit Pistons guard/sixth man Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson.
Some of the most effective Rockets lineup combinations this season involve Thornton with the highest-graded being a (+2.5).
In the Rockets wins that he has appeared in, he’s a +3.6, certainly meaning that he can be effective enough to help this team win some games.
His effective field goal percentage is a healthy 52.4 and his true shooting percentage is a blazing 54.8.
It a shame the Rockets haven’t been using his skill set enough, allowing it to waste away while he’s riding the pine.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for him to start but a slight bump in his playing time should help this team and pay big dividends down the road.
J.B. Bickerstaff has to figure out a way or else he’ll have another problem on top of all of the others that he has inherited from Kevin McHale.
It can be done.
Thornton, 28, is averaging 10.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per game in 28 games this season.